Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


For The Explorers

[woman before lake before mountain]

Mrs. HM and I are explorers. In our pre-parent years, we'd embark on walks without any goal, just to see what we might find, and often blasted straight through lunch hour into the threat of imminent death from starvation at 4pm.

In 2005, we spent a few days on the island of Madeira. Madeira is riddled with irrigation channels called levadas which are also used by locals as footpaths. We spotted the start of one near our hotel and, on our final day, chose to follow it. It gently led us around the coast, snaking through villages and plantations and eventually headed inland along the edge of a rocky gorge. But we never completed the journey as, after half a day of hiking, we had to turn back to catch our plane home.

[shot of levada overlooking plantation and coastline]

Levada dos Piornais, 2005

Exploring is our vice and it's an activity we look forward to resuming once the children get a bit older. But our joint obsession also thrives in virtual spaces.

Both of us spent countless hours wandering the neglected alleyways and meandering train routes of GTA III’s urban centres. I've scoured the junglescape of Far Cry 2 apparently hunting diamonds when in fact I had hijacked them as an excuse to explore. STALKER was another of my virtual world romances, whose anomaly-pocked hostility was fascinating to grapple with. And Mrs. HM basked in every shadow of Thief’s Haunted Cathedral, the imperative to search for loot under every abandoned desk and chair somehow more potent than the need to get the fuck out of there.

Read More »


The Last Dream

This is the final article in the Where We Came From series.

[Blurred picture of a small boy]

"When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood." (Sam Ewing, 1992)

*                     *                     *

I was obsessed with video games during the first decade of my life. I remember having many dreams that ended up at a video game arcade; it was a particular place that my dream-self knew well, although it did not exist in the waking world. I never really played much there, as I usually woke up pretty quickly after I grabbed the controls of one of the machines. It was more about the signature of the arcade than its function, a perfect amalgamation of every arcade I'd ever visited.

But, in time, this place eventually slipped out of my dreams and I forgot all about it.

Years later, I dreamt of a beaten-up old building, all peeling paint and boarded-up windows, holding court on a strange disconnected island in a sea of wild grass. I explored inside with a friend and found some dilapidated, broken arcade cabinets. I realised that this was that old dream arcade.

I had been given one last chance to say goodbye.

Read More »


Nothing To Lose

This is the fourteenth article in the Where We Came From series.

During a trip to the coast, the Harbour Master clan spent a couple of days roaming Camber Sands beach near Rye. While we were down there, I spotted an amusement arcade perched on the edge of one of the beach car parks.

[picture of amusement arcade, doors are padlocked]

The last arcade I'd wandered through was probably on Brighton Pier about five years ago but whilst the arcade roar kindled feelings of nostalgia, the coin-ops of old had largely been replaced with gambling machines and dancing games. I still hoped to come across some arcade which retained working 80s favourites like Phoenix, Defender or Battlezone.

The beach arcade was closed but I kept an eye on it, waiting for the chance to nose around whatever machines were on offer. I have such strong arcade memories from my single digit years: blazing batteries of screens in dark, enclosed places where ten pence pieces went to die.

Then I saw the sign.

Read More »


The Retired Gambler

Sinan Kubba talks about saving Mirror's Edge and delivering a sequel. I'd love a sequel to that game, but then again I wanted a sequel to Portal and came away wondering if the original was diminished by its descendent. Portal 2 is not to Portal what Half-Life 2 was to Half-Life. But Sinan is right about the title; I never liked "Mirror's Edge" and there's a weak attempt to justify the name in Faith's dialogue. I don't know if it's down to Rhianna Pratchett or down to the marketeers. Either way, I'll find out your address, hunt you down... and offer you a cup of Earl Grey, hot.

I was pants at the time trial though. Getting three stars for any run was diamond hard; I think I got the gold for the first trial and then gave up. There's a lot of puzzle in there, in the sense that you have to find the most optimum route connecting the checkpoints. To pull off these outrageous solutions, you need a veteran understanding of the Mirror's Edge playground. Which means repetition, lots of.

Read More »


Grow Up

Today, I pour p-Toluenesulfonic acid all over one comment - just one - out of the entire internet because blah blah whatever.

Slashdot put up a post this week titled "Have I Lost My Gaming Mojo?" It hits some of the notes I made on The Second Game. A gamer doesn't have much time to play games. As a result he/she finds it difficult to engage with any modern games. What has changed? Is it age? Is it over-exposure to recycled gaming tropes? Is it just the lack of time?

But one of the comments caught my eye.

Read More »


On the Causal Of Casual

Yet another RSS feed I have picked up in recent weeks is for Nicholas Lovell's Gamesbrief which came to my attention via the always interesting Tom Jubert. It's a blog about the business of games development, which attracts me for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is that I have often considered starting up my own business.

But I digress.

One of Nicholas' recent posts covers the death of independent UK games retailer Chipsworld and, in particular, Nicolas asserts:

This one is more of a belief than empirical evidence. I’m still researching it...

As people get older, with families and other commitments, they are less able to dedicate time to gaming. they are still keen gamers, but will seek alternative, less-intensive ways of getting their gaming fix.

This is precisely what happens in the film / television industries. Single, dating, childless people go to the cinema more often. Older, married couples with kids watch television. They are still consumers of filmed entertainment: just through a different medium.

(I can promise you they don't play Neptune's Pride for one thing.)

Read More »


The Second Game


I loved being a foreigner.

When I moved to Tokyo for my employer, I left behind possessions, a relationship and a whole way of life. The British contingent of our Tokyo office socialised, went places and did stuff as often as it could, a sort of professional replay of our student years. Conversation no longer covered sport or last night's telly: we talked about asking at a Koban where the train station was in Japanese, we talked about braving natto at our favourite izakaya, we talked about the Japanese women in the office putting out Valentine's Day chocolates with the note "Happy VD" attached. You can't have conversations like this living in your own country.

Read More »


Sometimes This Happens

(This is in response to a similar piece by Kent on Second Person Shooter.)

It is 2am. He is 37. There are 2.45 other people in the silent house. There are 23 people in his Mount & Blade party. There are 0 reasons to be here.

He told himself not to start playing at 9.30pm because he had to go to bed at 10pm. So he didn't. But after scratching at the web for an hour, picking at links and watching Paradise Circus in a constant loop on YouTube, somehow Steam was available. Somehow an icon was clicked. Somehow, this happens.

Read More »